No You Don’t: Essays from an Unstrange Mind – Sparrow Rose Jones
A collection of essays, some of which were originally posted on the author’s blog Unstrange Mind. They cover a range of topics from Jones’ life including her response to parents hoping their autistic children grew up to be like her and the struggle she had with bullying throughout her life.
But my mind is unstrange: I am not a different species, an alien creature, a changeling, a robot, a freak of nature. I am a familiar word, pronounced with a different accent. I am you mother’s favorite recipe, prepared by a stranger. I am your favorite song, recorded by a new artist. I am a human being; I am Autistic.
Some of the essays Jones’ writes can evoke strong emotional reactions – especially for those who see bits of their own lives parallel with the author’s. Self described as middle aged (and I do not know how old Jones is), the resources and knowledge that we have now for and about autism, as lacking as they are in places, are still far more than were available to the author growing up.
But the truth is that they do not want their child to turn out like me. If your Autistic child turns out like me, you have failed. Your Autistic child deserves so much better than to turn out like me.
As the author writes about some difficult topics, you are given permission to see a part of her world, and to understand autism as Jones experiences she. She takes care to point out that the way she is autistic cannot be representative of any other autistic person, although there may be shared traits. She has a very contemplative writing style, and there are some parts of her essays that I especially relate to:
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think I’m inferior because I’m Autistic. I think I’m a good person. I know I really try hard to be good and do the right thing. And I’m not ashamed of being Autistic. But I do get ashamed of some of the ways my Autistic brain interacts with others. (…) I like who I am and I don’t hate being Autistic but it can be really hard to deal with the parts of autism that make it really hard for me to connect with other people.
When there are blogs, books, and online autistic communities veering more and more towards the view-point that being autistic is wonderful and endows you with a number of skills or talents, that it isn’t a disability, that it isn’t a disorder, and that it doesn’t need therapy or interventions; it can be very difficult to find your place in those communities when you don’t follow that mindset. What Jones wrote above resonates with me – I don’t hate being autistic, but it’s not this wonderful thing that makes my life so much better. It’s good (for me) to read something from someone else who puts it into words much better than I have been able to so far.
I would end this essay with a call to action…if only I knew how we could all work together to overcome the alienation. But I really am at a loss on this one. I need so much help in thios area and I don’t even know what kind of help to ask for. People always talk about Autistics and non-autistics meeting half-way. I guess I’ve gone as far as I can get on this one. Can I get everyone else to take a step or two forward now?
I find this section really important – it’s about meeting half-way. It’s not about forcing autistic people to fit into a neurotypical world and to hide their autistic traits and just ‘get on with it’, but it’s also not about insisting that neurotypical people do everything for autistic people and demanding unrealistic adjustments. It’s about working with each other to achieve an outcome that works for both sides.
Is it worth reading?
Absolutely, this is a thoughtful and thought provoking selection of essays that should be read by autistic people and non-autistic people.